HELP…Teach Me EVERYTHING About Cloth Diapers!
Cloth Diapering 101: What You Need to Know to Cloth Diaper Successfully
By Monica Foss
Before my son was born, I didn’t even consider cloth diapering as an option. Why? The idea of having to keep up with laundry and get knee-deep in bodily waste turned me off completely, to be honest. I had also planned on going back to work full time 3 months after my son was born, so I felt like disposable diapers would be the easiest option. After my son developed a persistent rash using disposables that wouldn’t go away with any amount of diaper rash cream (or any brand), I decided to take the plunge and invest in cloth diapers, despite my initial misgivings. As it turns out, I not only love using cloth diapers on my son, but I have become passionate about modern cloth diapering and do everything I can to advocate for making cloth mainstream.
When I began cloth diapering, I knew absolutely nothing about them. I envisioned big, bulky pieces of fabric pinned to babies using safety pins and pee all over my carpet. I was terrified It would be extremely difficult and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with laundry. It turns out my vision of cloth diapering was completely wrong and – although you can choose to use cloth diapers the old fashioned way and fasten diapers using pins – the modern cloth diapering world is much different, to say the least. Not only are there multiple different types of cloth diapers, but cloth diapering companies and the families that use them have created an amazing, open community filled with compassion and support, making the step into using cloth diapers a much easier one.
Throughout the last year of using cloth diapers, here’s what I believe are the pro’s and con’s of using cloth diapers are:
Pros to cloth diapering:
- You save money in the long run
- Cloth diapering is environmentally friendly
- Babies are less likely to get diaper rash with natural fibers against their skin
- Cloth diapers are better for baby’s hip development
- Most brands have a great resale value
- They are ridiculously adorable on babies!
Cons to cloth diapering:
- Cloth diapers are expensive to invest in initially
- You need to do laundry every 2-3 days
- Solid poop needs to be dunked and swished in the toilet or sprayed off before washing
- Cloth diapers are bulkier under clothes
- Many daycare providers refuse to use them
Throughout my cloth diapering journey, I tried a magnitude of styles and brands before landing on the types that worked best for me and my son. Here’s the lowdown on the different cloth diaper styles available and the reasons I believe they are useful.
Most Affordable Cloth Diapers: The Prefolds/Flats/Fitteds & Cover Route
This is the best option for those who really need to get the most bang for their buck and save money. This is the most economical cloth diapering option and works best for those on a very tight budget or who have more than one child in diapers. There are also a magnitude of ways to use this style, making it very customizable.
are made using natural fibers. Cotton is the most common type of prefold you’ll find, but bamboo and hemp prefolds are also available. Prefolds are basically a flat, rectangular piece of fabric sewn in layers to create a piece of cloth big enough to use as a diaper. Prefolds can either be folded around the baby and fastened onto them, or they can be folded in thirds (known as tri-folding) and laid flat in a cover. Personally, I prefer the tri-folding method when using prefolds, as it is quick and functional.
- Personal favorites: Grovia and Nicki’s
are similar to prefolds but are made using a single layer of material that is generously sized, allowing the user to fold a flat diaper however works best for them. These are great for those who like to experiment with fancy folds when fastening a diaper around their baby or those who want to reduce the bulk of the diaper. Personally, I love flats. I tri-fold them and use them in covers, pockets or as a booster overnight. They’re functional and have a very quick drying time, which is a plus as a busy mother.
- Personal favorites: Geffen Baby and Nicki’s
usually use the same type of material as a prefold but are sewn in the shape of a diaper vs. being a flat piece of fabric you fold yourself. Fitteds save time for those who like to fold cloth diapers around their baby because they are already shaped to fit a baby’s body. Fitteds come in two different styles: without closures so you can use closures of your own (such as snappi’s or pins), or with snaps/velcro to close the diaper around the baby for a snug fit. I love fitteds as an overnight option! They are incredibly absorbent since the entire diaper soaks up liquid and reduces bulk, making them seem like a comfortable option for longer periods of wear.
- Personal favorites: Sustainababyish and Nicki’s
are made using a waterproof material and are meant to be used over prefolds, flats and fitteds to prevent moisture from leaking out of the diaper area. Covers are either made with a waterproof PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabric or wool. PUL covers are easy to launder and use, making them the most popular choice. Wool covers are also a wonderful option as a diaper cover (especially for overnight) and are loved by many because they are made using natural fibers and actually soak up moisture from the diapers while preventing leaks. Wool needs to be hand washed and lanolized in order to stay waterproof, however, so they are more high maintenance than PUL covers.
- Personal favorites: Grovia, Thirsties, Nicki’s and Applecheeks
Most Customizable : The Pocket Diaper Route
Pocket diapers are one of the most popular modern cloth diapers and make up the majority of my diaper stash. They use a waterproof outer layer with a piece of fabric sewn onto the inside, usually using a stay dry material such as microfleece or microsuede. These diapers have an opening in either the front, middle or back (or sometimes a combination) so you can stuff an absorbent insert inside the two layers and have the diaper ready to go on your baby. Pocket diapers are a great way to keep your baby dry and are completely customizable, allowing you to use as much absorbency as your little one needs. They are also great for those who aren’t as familiar with using cloth diapers (such as babysitters or daycare providers) since they are easy to fasten on the baby and ready to go.
- Personal favorites: Nicki’s, Moraki, Funky Fluff, Lalabye and Blueberry
Most User Friendly Cloth Diaper: The All-in-One Route
All-in-one diapers are considered the easiest diaper on the market, but are usually the priciest. These diapers have a waterproof outer layer and an absorbent inner layer, all sewn together. No stuffing or folding is needed. Simply wash, fasten on the baby and throw the dirty diaper in the wash when you’re done. Simple, easy and complication free! These are a daddy favorite in my house.
- Personal favorites: Smart Bottoms, Grovia, Nicki’s and Blueberry Simplex
Most Versatile: The Hybrid/All-in-Two Route
Hybrid diapers are an even simpler version of covers and prefolds. These diapers use a cover and snap-in insert that can be replaced when wet, allowing you to reuse the shell 2-3 times. A few brands have also altered the hybrid style and refer to it as an all-in-two. These diapers give the user a choice of snapping an insert on top of the diaper to make it an all-in-two or stuffing a pocket with the insert to make it an all-in-one, allowing you to choose how you want to use it.
- Personal favorites: Grovia, Best Bottoms, Lalabye Baby and Funky Fluff
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about cloth diapering:
How do I put on a cloth diaper?
Don’t worry, this question isn’t as silly as it sounds. All cloth diapers either come sized for a specific weight range (just like disposables do) or in one size style that has a snap down rise that allows the diaper to grow with your baby and can be used from birth to potty training. Many companies also make diapers specifically for newborns, which can get very tiny and usually have a cutout for the umbilical cord, making them great for itty bitty babes. Cloth diapers come with either hook and loop/aplix closures (commonly known as velcro) that fasten on the baby just like disposables do or in snap closures, which are great for older baby’s who have figured out how to undo velcro. Personally, I love snap closures. There is definitely more of a learning curve with snaps, but they keep the diaper looking new much longer, are easier to deal with when washing (if done incorrectly, velcro diapers can snag the fabric on your diapers in the washer) and prevent most babies from being able to take their diapers off.
How many cloth diapers do I need?
From my experience, 30 diaper changes in your choice of style (or a combination of styles) is the minimum you should have for one baby. Younger babies go through an average of 10-12 diaper changes a day and older babies go through an average of 7-9 diaper changes a day. You want to make sure you have enough cloth diapers to go at least 2 full days and nights before washing dirty diapers, which would put the very minimum you could get by with at 26 diapers. 30 is a nice rounded off number and gives you enough diapers to have a few extras, just in case you need them. However, I personally feel like a diaper stash of around 45- 50 diaper changes is the best way to go. This gives you wiggle room in case you don’t get to diaper laundry when you absolutely have to and puts less wear and tear on your diapers, keeping the resale value higher and increasing the lifespan of your diapers for use with future children. If you’re like me and love cloth diapering to the point where it’s become a hobby and a passion, you’ll probably end up with more!
What’s the scoop on poop?
The good news is, dealing with baby poop is incredibly easy if your baby is exclusively breastfed (otherwise known as EBF). Breastfed poop can safely go in the washer, so all you need to do is take the diaper off your baby and put it in your diaper pail or wet bag to be washed as-is. If your baby is formula fed or on solid food, the poop needs to be rinsed off of the diaper before putting it in your washer. Most people either dunk and swish the dirty diaper in the toilet to remove all of the poop or invest in a diaper sprayer (which is what I’d recommend doing), such as a Spray Pal or Diaper Dawg.
How should I wash my cloth diapers?
Washing cloth diapers vs. throwing away a disposable diaper is one of the main reasons many choose not to take the plunge into cloth diapering. Although it can seem intimidating, it is actually very easy. A good laundry routine usually consists of a pre-rinse to remove all waste from the diapers, a heavy wash to fully clean the diapers and a final rinse to ensure all detergent and residue have been removed from the diapers. However, your laundry routine will need to be customized to your water type (soft, normal or hard) and the type of machine you have. Fluff Love University is an amazing website to use when learning how to wash your cloth diapers the right way. You’ll find an index of cloth diaper safe detergents, how-to instructions and even wash routines tailored to specific washing machines.
What else do I need to successfully cloth diaper?
Besides cloth diapers, you’ll need a place to store your clean and dirty diapers. I currently store all my clean cloth diapers on the shelves under my changer and in a cube shelf next to it. For dirty diapers, I use a Funky Fluff hanging wet bag that is made of the same waterproof material that is used to make diapers and zips to contain any smells. You can also invest in a diaper pail and line it with a wet bag, which holds even more dirty diapers than a wet bag would.
Where can I buy cloth diapers?
You may find cloth diapers in a local store – such as small businesses or chains like Babies”R”Us and Buy Buy Baby – but I believe the easiest way to buy cloth diapers is online. A few of my favorite online cloth diaper retailers are Nicki’s Diapers, Kelly’s Closet, Abby’s Lane and Lil Tulips (but there are many more). Many cloth diaper brands can also be found on popular sites like Amazon.
The best advice I can give you when beginning your cloth diapering journey is to go easy on yourself and experiment a little. Every parent and baby is different, which means there isn’t one style or brand that will work perfectly for every single family. You may find that you have an easy time fastening hook and loop diapers on your baby and want to stick with only that style of closure. Or you may find that the shape of one diaper brand just doesn’t work on your little one and you can’t use it while another brand fits your baby perfectly. Wherever your cloth diapering journey takes you, enjoy the trial and error process and let yourself have fun with it. Who doesn’t like to see a tiny human in a fluffy cloth diaper? I know I do! Goodluck and congratulations on the new addition to your family!